High school sports pushed to 2021

Fall season could begin in January

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The San Benito High football team closes out its pregame warm-ups in 2016. File photo

In a move that came as little surprise but was no less impactful, the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) announced Monday that the start of the high school sports fall season will be pushed back to December or January. 

A combination of factors led to the CIF’s decision, including a spike in Covid-19 numbers in California in recent weeks and the fact that most school districts are starting the upcoming academic year with distance learning. If most campuses are closed for in-classroom teaching, it made little sense to open up campuses each afternoon for sports-only activities. 

“The writing was on the wall of where this was headed,” Central Coast Section Commissioner Dave Grissom said. “I’m not surprised at all. (CIF) Executive Director Ron Nocetti was very open with us (each of the state’s 10 section commissioners), and we had long conversations on plans going forward for the new school year. With what we’ve seen recently (with a surge in coronavirus infections), it doesn’t come as a surprise at all.”

The CCS, the local governing body for schools stretching from San Francisco along the coast to King City, will make a decision to unveil its plans on Tuesday. It will likely build its calendar around the CIF’s, Grissom said. Even though the CIF is the de facto governing body for high school athletics, none of the 10 section executive committees that comprise the state have to go along with the updated CIF calendar. 

However, should any section choose to go in a different direction, their schools wouldn’t be eligible to compete in a regional/state playoff tournament. 

“I suspect that most of the sections will go with the CIF guidelines, and that would be my recommendation as well,” Grissom said. 

Could there be a benefit for a section to not comply with the newly revised CIF schedule? Perhaps. A county health department order for a particular section could open up, thereby allowing student-athletes to compete in a particular sport. Some superintendents might simply want kids to be active after a long period of inactivity/competition, and go forward with a fall season if their local county health department would allow. 

Here’s what the CIF’s decision means for fall sports and the overall 2020-2021 high school sports calendar. The traditional sports contested in the winter—basketball, soccer and wrestling—have been moved to the spring season. Fall sports include football, water polo, volleyball, cross country, traditional competitive cheer, field hockey, and gymnastics.

Based on the assumption that conditions improve over the next several months—and given the fluid nature of the coronavirus, that is hardly a given—most fall sports teams will start official practice in December of January. The last day for section playoff competition in football is April 10, with one week for regional bowl games to be concluded by April 17. 

The last volleyball and water polo section match—for both boys and girls—would be March 13, followed by a March 20 date to conclude regional/state competition. For cross country, the last day of section competition is March 20 with the state meet likely to be held on March 27. Field hockey, traditional competitive cheer and gymnastics do not have regional/state playoff ties, so each section will determine the end date for the last day of section playoff competition.  

Spring sports such as baseball, softball and track and field would end their regional and state championships on June 26, 2021.

The CIF also made another major ruling from Monday’s announcement, with the temporary suspension of bylaws 600 to 605, which forbade student-athletes from competing in the same sport during the same season for two different organizations. However, “due to the need to move sports to non-traditional times of the year,” the CIF will allow individuals to compete for an outside team at the same time they participate on their high school team for the 2020-2021 calendar year only. 

“I really applaud the CIF for what they did for this year because things are so fluid right now,” Grissom said. “Clubs are scrambling in how they’re going to build a season, so suspending rule 600 is a great idea.”